Sunday, October 13, 2013
Concert review: The National’s Matt Berninger shows his internal struggle
The frontman seemed to show his turmoil with every track at South Side Ballroom.
DALLAS Much like a leader preparing to give the speech of a lifetime, The National’s Matt Berninger seemed to fight an internal struggle throughout the band’s sold-out set at South Side Ballroom on Saturday night.
Playing out the melancholy lyrics the band is known for, the frontman paced about the stage between songs and sang with a bowed head for most of the show. Whether it was his way of getting into character or his choice of beverage, the singer made every minute of the almost two-hour set count. The rest of the band followed his lead, starting some tracks before he had made it back to the mic, seemingly nudging him along.
The brimming set cut no corners, revealing most of their bigger songs during the front half. “Don’t Swallow The Cap” came just after the opening number; his gravelly baritone was spot-on, contradicting a blanketing backdrop of rainbow lights.
Another popular single, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” off the band’s 2010 release High Violet, instigated a symphony of soft echoes throughout the crowded ballroom, delivering warmth to the somber message. There’s something deeply stirring about The National’s moody character, which is the hardest point to grasp when first hearing them. It takes a certain fan to appreciate their bleak outlook, but the ones who did seemed to know every word, and sang along every chance they got.
Berninger's emotions were on full display during “Afraid Of Everyone.” With closed eyes, he grabbed his mic like a lifeline, as the initial feelings that inspired the song were overcoming him yet again, forcing him to relive each moment onstage. As if the previous songs were a precursor, Berninger let his inner demons out in “Abel” with desperate, raspy screams. Drummer Bryan Devendorf matched the frantic tone with racing force, preventing the song from swirling into an abyss.
The beautifully tragic single “Fake Empire” concluded the regular set, and incorporated everything good about the veteran band: humming drums, enduring guitar work and an excited but anguished horn section paired with Berninger’s signature pauses adding emphasis in just the right places.
If there were any barriers before, all were discarded in the encore. Berninger rambled through the crowd during “Mr. November,” delivering the hopeful chorus like a pleading promise.
Psychedelic Australian rockers Tame Impala played out their wandering, shoe-gazing style with accurate artistry to kick off the evening. This trippy, instrumentally heavy band can be hard to connect with in a live setting - the lengthy guitar solos and orbital melodies make it difficult to discern where one ends and one begins. But weightier numbers “Elephant” and “Desire Be Desire Go” delivered a guttural shock with wicked bass lines and a peppier pace, helping to add weight to the airy set.
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